• VW and Audi models most closely met the quality expectations of owners.
  • Ford and Chrysler tied for second place in Total Quality.
  • Toyota owners reported the fewest problems.

Volkswagen led automakers in this year's Strategic Vision Total Quality Index, which ranks vehicles on how effectively owners' experience of quality meets their desires. VW's top ranking relies on the strength of models like the Golf, Eos and Tiguan, as well as the A4 and A8 from sister company Audi.

Since 1995, Strategic Vision's Total Quality Index has measured independent variables such as product, reliability and dealership experience against dependent variables like perception of quality and owners' emotional attachment to their vehicles. The Total Quality Index ranks winners in 21 vehicle segments.

Models from Volkswagen Group of America topped five segments. The VW Golf won the Small Multi-Function category while the Eos topped the Convertible segment. The compact Tiguan ranked highest among Entry Utilities, and a pair of Audi models--the A4 and A8--led the Near-Luxury Car and Luxury Car segments, respectively.

Ford and Chrysler scored highly in Total Quality Index ratings too, with the two automakers tying for second place behind VW. Ford Flex was the highest ranked Mid-Size Crossover Utility, while the F-150 won the Full-Size Pickup and F-250/F-350 led the Heavy-Duty Pickup segment.

Not only did Chrysler Group vehicles win in three categories, but the automaker was also the most improved in the 2012 results. The Fiat 500 won the Small Car category, and the Dodge Charger was the highest ranked among Large Cars. The Jeep Grand Cherokee had a first-place finish among Mid-Size Traditional Utility vehicles.

Although Toyota led the industry in fewest reported problems--just 17% of owners complained of issues--the automaker did not garner a single category win. Strategic Vision explained that its rankings take other criteria into account too, so winning in Total Quality goes beyond just reducing the number of problems. Plus, Strategic Vision President Alexander Edwards says that, with today's tight race for quality, only stand-out performers get recognition.

"[T]he key to success and sales will be products that satisfy the customer's increasingly insatiable need for innovation, and the complete picture of Quality," said Edwards. "With Total Quality, we factor in all the perceptions that are proven to create the impression of Total Quality; this is ultimately how people think about vehicles and spend money."

What it means to you: According to the Total Quality Index, winning vehicles like the VW Golf, Ford F-150 and Jeep Grand Cherokee go beyond trouble-free motoring to offer drivers overall satisfaction.


author photo

Nick Palermo is an automotive writer and lifelong car nut. He follows new and late-model used vehicles for AutoTrader.com, writes about vintage cars for Hemmings Classic Wheels and blogs on all things automotive at LivingVroom. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and twins.

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